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Contraception not the problem

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When I made the decision to transfer to Notre Dame I knew that it would be a fairly conservative environment. However given that this is one of the top universities in the nation I was not expecting the spiritual traditions of the university to corrode science, health and common sense for that matter.

Yesterday’s Viewpoint column (“An anniversary worth remembering”) by Prof. Emeritus Rice did exactly that. In short, Professor Rice chose to lump together the majority of Americans who make the responsible decision to practice safe sex by labeling them as “insane” and hedonistic. Professor Rice cites the ill conceived and outdated arguments of Paul VI, that contraceptives would lead to the “general lowering of morality,” the objectification of women and then, in an incredible leap from any logical foundation, attempts to equate contraception with abortion.

But fear not! For those married couples who choose to express their love for one another without the burden of raising a family of 15 or so children, the Professor offers the superb counsel of Paul VI: “take into account the natural rhythms [of a woman’s reproductive cycle] to regulate birth without offending the moral principles.” That’s some top notch advice from someone who obviously is not a medical professional.

Professor Rice makes a common fallacy among those of older generations that modern society has run amok in immorality and crudeness. Quite the opposite is true as can be observed by humanity’s continued progress, specifically over the last few generations, and most evidently in our nation. Poverty, racism and discrimination of all forms have declined over the years. I would argue this makes our generation of young Americans the most moral to date.

Though, there seems to be an obsession among the more pious among us to equate sexuality with morality. The simple truth of the matter is that we are all human, and our sexuality is an important part of who we are. Premarital sex, agree with it or not, is not some new idea resulting from improved contraception methods. In fact, one study suggests that 30 percent of all first births in colonial New England were conceived before marriage. Even the Puritans were getting it on!

What has changed over time is the socially accepted age for marriage which overall has continually increased. Today more men and women are continuing their education, and have the additional burden of competing in an increasingly competitive (and sagging) job market. Thus, young Americans are left with more time for our natural sexual desires to kick in as we are busy trying to create a level of financial stability before settling down to raise a family.

Surely the professor can’t be serious that the birth control pill is responsible for the objectification of women? The sad truth is that women have been objectified by men for as long as society has been dominated by men. However, in our current era women enjoy the most freedom and respect they have ever had.

Furthermore, the tremendous advances women have achieved in recent decades can be partially attributed to the success of contraception. Now that women are able to choose when they want to have children, more opportunities are available for women to prolong their educations, and advance further in their careers.

The closing paragraphs of Rice’s argument are a dishonest discussion of abortion, in a manner which is framed to cause the reader to interpret contraception and abortion to be one in the same. They are not. Contraception prevents pregnancy; abortion terminates it. Each of the two topics deserve their own discussion.

My fellow Notre Dame students, the decision of whether or not to have sex is one you must make according to your own beliefs. For those of you who choose to do so, please be smart about it and protect yourself and your partner from the risk of STDs or having to face the difficult challenge of dealing with an unplanned pregnancy by using condoms and/or other forms of readily available contraceptives. For more information visit www.smartersex.org or www.contracept.org

Brendan McPhillips


off campus

Sept. 2